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Guide to Construction Apps -- Top Tools for IT Managers and Construction Leaders

As time goes on, the needs of your business change. The problems that may have plagued your field workers in the past might not only still exist, but be hanging around with new troublemakers. Mobile applications are a great way to find powerful and flexible solutions to your workers needs. Over the course of this guide, we’ll walk through a couple key steps every construction manager in charge of IT responsibilities should take. We will also explore sample apps like this Inspection Site app below to give you ideas of what you can do: We will also share about how innovators like KLB Construction's Richard Glass are spearheading digital transformation. 7 Steps to Digital Transformation at Your Construction Company Step 1 - Identify your construction app stakeholders and determine each party’s needs. Step 2 - Identify any constraints. Step 3 - Choose an app platform. Step 4 - Build your construction apps. Step 5 - Test your apps. Step 6 - Deploy your apps. Step 7 - Manage, maintain, and update your apps. Step 1 - Identify your construction app stakeholders and determine each party’s needs. Look how productive they look! As they say, "Behind every great construction field team, is a... proactive construction IT team?" The construction industry is being transformed by digital innovation in the mobile space. Let’s start with figuring out who’s going to be actually using the construction app(s). Each type of user will have unique needs that a robust app platform should be able to accommodate. Four common stakeholders include: End User - The person who's actually using the app. We have to think about how we design our app with the End User's needs in mind to make sure we are helping, not hindering, them from accomplishing their tasks. Contractors - Contractors may need to access parts of the construction project management system. These users may have separate needs including specific security filters to limit access to sensitive data. Management - Management may not be performing the field services, but they will need consistent, high-level reports on project status, expense reports, and more. IT Team - The IT Team may be a standalone corporate division or simply an entrepreneurial front-line worker. In either case, any apps or app platforms must be easy to design and implement in the hands of an IT Team charged with ensuring security, stability, and performance. Two other stakeholders that may be relevant depending on the nature of the engagement include: Client - A client may or may not have interest in the everyday activities surrounding a construction project. Typically, a client might only be interested in some form of consistent reporting on project status or budget control. Government/Municipal Authorities - For projects in heavily regulated environments, active government oversight and intervention may necessitate tools that can be adapted for external participation. While it’s tempting to jump ahead and begin looking for solutions, taking time to identify key stakeholders and their unique needs is a time-saving, utility-maximizing process that should never be skipped. Be sure to speak with at least one person in each category of stakeholders before making any assumptions. Through this process, you can also learn what the current processes are for the given task you’re trying to digitize. Learning about what existing processes are already utilized can allow you to design apps that provide a more seamless transition for your workers. If the solution you ultimately create can’t significantly beat the status quo, it probably isn’t worth doing. A well designed suite of tools can help you increase onsite productivity and efficiency.   Step 2 - Identify any constraints. Constraints of all kinds, while sometimes limiting, also serve as useful guideposts that can help inform product development decisions. A few constraints to consider include: Scope What is the overall end-goal of your construction app(s)? Is the feature set you're exploring best suited for a mobile app form factor? Cost What is your team’s IT budget? Does your team have enough budget to hire developers or external consultants to build apps? What are you currently spending on app-related needs? What are you currently spending on the work function you're seeking to fix? Time When do the app(s) need to be ready? Are there any bottlenecks that may affect the app development process? Safety What safety precautions are worth considering? How are accidents typically handled through the present system? Safety first! Even when we’re talking about building out mobile-first workplace productivity apps. Legal What processes must be documented? And in what form? Will signatures, photos, or any other forms of documentation be needed? People/Technology Is your team utilizing standardized hardware or primarily personal devices? Are you looking for iOS, Android, iPhone, iPad specific solutions? Do you have someone who can build apps quickly and on time? How many app requests do you have?  Data What kind of data is your team collecting? Does the data need to be captured in real time? How will the data need to be processed and displayed? Connectivity Will your construction teams likely be working in any cellular dead-zones? How important is offline work capacity? If only balancing time, cost, and quality were as easy as drawing nice triangles... Step 3 - Choose an app platform. With hundreds if not thousands of construction app solutions out there, navigating a technology procurement decision can be tedious if not downright exhausting! The first decision you and your team may need to make is the classic buy vs. build decision. “Apps that are built for a smartphone and tablet, that have a complex user interface, or that require a significant back-end can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $1,500,000.” Even the simplest of apps can cost at least $25,000. This is what paying for proprietary mobile app development feels like... For all but the largest constructions firms in the world, coding your own apps from scratch is not a realistic possibility. Even if you could, in most cases, 3rd party solutions provide better bang-for-the-buck and greater functionality with proven solutions. Presuming you’ve decided to buy a license to an existing solution, your next decision would be choosing between an out-of-the-box construction solution and using a low-code or no-code platform to build a suite of custom, feature rich apps. Out-of-the-box solutions  on the surface appear to be quicker to set-up, but often that isn't the case in the long run. Not only do these solutions force you to work within preset constraints, but they also cost more to maintain. You know what your business's needs are, so why not design around that?  Platform app solutions are customizable by nature, and these apps may lend themselves to more functional product use-cases in the long-run. With even a limited IT team, no-code platform apps are often quicker, cheaper, easier to customize and iterate. A well-integrated platform solution can also help IT managers avoid the classic challenge of utilizing too many disparate systems that can’t “communicate” effectively with each other. A view of your phone after installing multiple apps to do what the one app you create can do... As an example, consider Richard’s experience from KLB Construction: “Mobile apps are lagging in the construction industry, and it’s under-served by technology. Off-the-shelf software typically does not represent how we do things. Being able to customize the app for our purposes makes it more user-friendly and more likely to be adopted by the field.” Whatever route you ultimately end up choosing, be sure to explore software reviews and find out what real users have to say about the product: Best Mobile Application Development Software Best Construction App Software Step 4 - Build your construction apps. Depending on the app product or platform you choose and your team's initial competency, building and integrating a full suite of construction management apps can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months to get started. In this time, it’s best to focus on establishing the core functionality of what you need. We all must walk before we can run, you know? You may even consider building out a product road-map that includes what you’ll include at the start of your initial construction app launch and what features and functionalities you’ll build in over time. This product road-map should synthesize insights you’ve already gathered in your stakeholder, constraint, and app platform research. Bucketing Similar Functions into Apps No single tool can fulfill every function you need. Because of this, you might consider bucketing similar functions into a suite of connected apps. A few ideas include: Estimator - For contractors on the go, utilizing a mobile estimator tool can increase productivity and help save time. Punch List - Wrapping up any construction project involves closing the loop on work items. If your organization currently uses a paper or email-based system for punch lists, you might consider switching to an app-based version that works seamlessly with your teams.  Blueprint Management - Having cloud-based shared and current blueprints is an important function for most construction projects. Utilizing a single tool with a clean user interface can help engineers, architects, and contractors work collaboratively, quickly, and accurately. If you’re building apps through the AppSheet platform, you can get started quickly by integrating your data from Google Docs, Box, DropBox, SQL, and more.     Or, you can copy these generic versions of construction apps to get you started: Construction Daily Reports Daily reporting is essential for foreman and project managers who are tasked with staying on top of resources and personnel. A functional app can replace the stream of paperwork and emails that can clutter daily reporting. Site Inspections Safety inspections are an essential piece of any well-run construction project. This app allows users to capture key information for inspection reports while leveraging cloud-synced photos and GPS/map technology. Package Delivery Management Getting the right packages or deliveries delivered to the right building or job site can be a challenging undertaking. An effective internal logistics app can simplify this process for suppliers, drivers, and site managers. Field Survey Project management was never meant to be contained in the four walls of a cubicle. Putting the tools for real-time, on-site project management into those on the front-lines can help any organization retain data integrity and manage resources effectively. Learn more about this sample app. For AppSheet users, here are a few more things to keep in mind: Consider leveraging any sample app materials that may be relevant for your use case. Great apps and app platforms will always come with rich resource libraries and support to help you make the most of their product. As an individual charged with IT management responsibility, be sure to do your research and build a strong foundation of product-specific knowledge. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Remember, you’re building a functional business application. It may not look as slick as the latest social media app, but it also does not need to. Whew! Step 5 - Test your apps. In theory, practice makes perfect, but with software, testing makes… “better.” No amount of tests can replicate all the realities of a live app, but it can certainly help! Consider identifying a subset of the construction team to engage in field tests. A simple way to go about doing this would be to provide them with basic training and ask them to complete a battery of standard field tests (i.e. processes they would normally use the app for). Have participants report back to you with data on functionality and usability. You can modify this simple Google Form to suit your needs if your solution doesn't have built in feedback functionality. For AppSheet users, users can always provide feedback to app creators through the "Feedback View" on the menu (see below).  Once your testing consistently returns satisfied end users, you’re ready to deploy your app to the team. Step 6 - Deploy your apps. You made it! You’ve successfully procured and created an app solution for your team. Before you celebrate too soon, expect the unexpected as you deploy your apps to live users. Even stock photo models need time to celebrate! In the process of releasing your app, consider hosting a universal team training event either in-person or through a webinar. Be sure to cast a compelling vision of why your team is making the change and how this change will ultimately benefit them. Change isn’t always appreciated and habits can be difficult to break. Even after the app is fully deployed, bugs, user error, and unexpected challenges are par for the course when it your apps makes it to the field. What’s important is keeping a level head and having a platform with strong help documentation and support options. "If we make it easier than paper, we increase adoption.” -Richard Glass, IT Manager at KLB Construction. Step 7 - Manage, maintain, and update your apps. In today’s ever-changing world, no product is every truly “done,” but that's a good thing! Users change. Needs change. And great software should have the ability to change too. As an IT manager or someone functioning in an IT leadership capacity, it’s your job to stay ahead of the game and ensure that the apps you build meet the needs of your team. Here’s a checklist of questions to keep your apps ready-to-go: Are there any known bugs? If so, what actions are currently being taken to address them? Is there a strong on-boarding process/documentation in place to help new users learn the system? Are there any new upcoming projects that may require distinct needs? Do you need more or fewer software licenses? Are there any new technologies (e.g. augmented reality) that have the potential to shift our future business processes? For AppSheet users, are there any new data sources that should be integrated? And now, it's your turn! So there you have it! 7 steps to transform your construction firm from technology laggard to industry trend-setter. What have been your experiences implementing mobile apps across your construction firm? What lessons have you learned? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below or join our community forum and talk to others in your field and beyond! This post was updated on November 14th, 2019.

Five Must-Have Features of a Digital Punch List

If you’re looking to create a construction punch list, it means that you’re close to the end of your construction project. That’s the good news. The bad news? Punch lists, for all their importance and potential, are too often stuck in the 20th century. In an age when people carry around compact computers, aka smartphones, capable of snapping pictures, mapping directions, and communicating with others around the world, many in the construction industry still maintain punch lists using paper, pen, and clipboard. The continued use of old-fashioned punch lists sheds light on a broader problem in the construction industry. While digital transformation, or the use of dynamic technology often based in the cloud, gains traction in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and hospitality, the construction industry remains stubborn to the change. It doesn’t have to be this way. Digital transformation will inevitably tip the scales towards innovation in the construction industry — it’s just a matter of when these changes will occur and who will help implement them. This point brings us back to the punch list. Digital transformation in a construction company will not necessarily happen all at once. The effort will be a matter of small, but important, efforts to digitize the business. Digital punch lists provide the perfect place to start inspiring digital change in your construction business. So which features should you look for in a punch list app or punch list software? Check out our list of five essential punch list features below to learn more. 1. Works on mobile A central function of any punch list is to ensure communication and collaboration between team members on a construction project, regardless of their role, position, or location. You may manage multiple offices or work sites, all employing various, interconnected team members. Look for mobile-compatible apps or software so that your workers can reference the punch lists on-the-go using personal or company smartphones and tablets.  And even though a user will view the punch list on their own mobile device, the software or app should sync via the cloud. This way, administrators can assign ownership and tasks to people distributed far and wide, while keeping the cloud-based punch list as the single point of reference. Meanwhile, workers can update progress in real-time. 2. Ability to flag tasks by priority A punch list app serves as the point of reference for everyone involved in the completion of a construction project. However, if the tasks are not classified by priority, your team will have little guidance on the importance of any given punch list item. Further, some tasks need to be completed in sequential order, one after the next. The ability to classify, filter, and group tasks by priority or sequence is a must-have for any digital punch list. Your team will thank you for the clear instructions and speedy project completions. 3. Interactive maps Similar to our first requirement of mobile compatibility, our third must-have punch list feature is interactive mapping. Built-in maps clearly demonstrate the dispersed locations of work sites and projects. A map feature enables users to efficiently plan travel and visits around prioritized tasks. These interactive online maps are no-brainer alternatives to static addresses printed on paper.   4. Automation The glory of technology is that it provides the average person capabilities that would be otherwise impossible through low-tech counterparts. Paper- or spreadsheet-based punch lists are standalone, static things. And by now, you’ve probably gotten the sense that a good digital punch list is dynamic in many ways. One such dynamism is the ability to automate emails, reports, text messages, and other forms of digital communication to be sent to your users. For example, your punch list app could have a feature that sends a notification to the owner of a task when the status or priority changes. Or, send a PDF project report to investors and stakeholders. 5. Permissions and user settings Another main objective of a punch list is to keep a construction project moving towards deadlines and contractual obligations. However, not every person on the team should have the ability to define these milestones. Therefore, last but not least, a digital punch list should always include multiple levels of permissions which allow select users specific functionality.  One employee (or a class of employees) should have the unique rights to determine when a task has been completed. A digital punch list should always include various levels of permission settings which grant specific functionality to certain users. Inspire digital transformation in construction Once your team learns how to use and scale digital punch lists, the experience can be used as a proof of concept for incremental digital transformation across your construction company. Want to get started today using digital punch lists? Copy and customize the AppSheet Punch List app. Check out a preview below for a sneak peek at what you can build:

The Top 2020 Conferences and Events for the Construction Industry

Interested in attending the top construction industry conference & events in 2020? We created an app with a curated shortlist of the top events this year. If you are starting to plan which events to participate in next year, this list will come in handy. Click on the Details tab to copy the app and you'll also have access to the data that's powering the app. You can create your own web or mobile app for your construction needs with AppSheet.  If you're interested in building your own custom mobile and web apps for processes like inspections, punch lists, near misses, or virtually any scenario you imagine, explore how to create your own app and discover how other construction leaders are leveraging AppSheet to empower their field teams.   Construction CPM Conference Sun, Jan 19, 2020 - Wed, Jan 22, 2020 B Resort & Spa Orlando, Orlando, USA Construction CPM Conference will cover topics like Study and Training in CPM, the Critical Path Method of Planning & Scheduling Analysis, Explore and train on a variety of CPM software products and more. Construction World Expo Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Wed, Jan 22, 2020 Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, USA Construction World Expo features drone data collection, surveys, inspections and photography for the construction and facility management world, much all-inclusive construction industry face to face networking events, latest in technology, software, tools & equipment, and much more. NAHB International Builders' Show Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Thu, Jan 23, 2020 Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA The NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS) is the largest annual light construction show in the world and the home building industry’s premier event. Only at IBS can you connect with thousands of your home building peers, industry experts and manufacturers to exchange ideas, discuss challenges, and access real business solutions. Design & Construction Week Tue, Jan 21, 2020 - Thu, Jan 23, 2020 Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA The largest annual gathering of the residential construction and design industry bringing together more than 95,000 professionals and featuring more than 2,000 exhibits, industry experts, and numerous networking opportunities. Procurecon Facilities Wed, Jan 22, 2020 - Thu, Jan 23, 2020 Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, Atlanta, USA The ProcureCon Facilities will be dedicated to the unique challenges involved with sourcing real estate, construction, utilities, and facilities management services. It is a series of events that will arm you with tools to become expert strategic sourcing and procurement executives. Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit Mon, Jan 27, 2020 - Tue, Jan 28, 2020 Riverhouse on the Deschutes Conference Center, Bend, Oregon The Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit's goal is to offer affordable training that provides the Central Oregon construction industry the tools to work in a safer, more efficient manner. Oregon OSHA education and training classes and materials provide information on occupational safety and health requirements in Oregon. The International Surface Event Mon, Jan 27, 2020 - Thu, Jan 30, 2020 Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA Comprised of three world-class trade shows: SURFACES, StonExpo/Marmomac, and TileExpo events, The International Surface Event (TISE) is the largest North American floor covering, stone, and tile industry event and is the premier global reaching industry marketplace for buyers, specifiers, and influencers to purchase products, gain design and trend inspiration, and develop their business strategies. World of Concrete Mon, Feb 03, 2020 - Fri, Feb 07, 2020 3150 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89109 World of Concrete is a major annual event that draws over 60,000 attendees in the concrete industry. According to their website, "This is the commercial construction industry’s first, largest, and most important annual international event for concrete and masonry professionals across the globe!" Construction Executive Summit Thu, Feb 06, 2020 - Thu, Feb 06, 2020 Hilton Vancouver Washington, Vancouver, USA The SWCA Construction Executive Summit is designed to meet the needs of all businesses working within the construction industry throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Summit will offer individuals and organizations the opportunity to network with other leaders in the industry, learn and sharpen business skills, and influence the future of the construction industry in the Pacific Northwest. Construction Technology and Innovation Conference Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Wed, Feb 12, 2020 DeVos Place, Grand Rapids, USA Learn about the emerging technology shaping the construction industry today and how you can leverage them in your business. Experience live tech demonstrations to see these solutions in action and discover how other companies have benefited. Construction Institute Summit Thu, Feb 20, 2020 - Sat, Feb 22, 2020 The Westin Los Angeles Airport, Los Angeles, USA The summit brings contractors, owners, designers, and other construction industry stakeholders from all over the country to meet and share new developments and innovative practices in the construction industry. Network with peers, earn PDHs, and expand your knowledge-base to enhance the success of your projects. Build Expo Los Angeles Wed, Feb 26, 2020 - Thu, Feb 27, 2020 Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, USA Build Expo Los Angeles provides the building and construction industry an unrivaled environment to meet buyers all in one place. Attendees have the chance to meet with exhibitors, check out new developments and keep a close eye on the competition. Build Expo offers over 20 expert seminars and workshops covering many topics. This event showcases products and services on display that include architectural equipment and devices, construction materials, building materials and devices, software for building designs, and more. New York Build Expo Tue, Mar 03, 2020 - Wed, Mar 04, 2020 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, USA New York Build is the largest construction show for New York and the tri-state area. New York Build covers all sectors of the construction industry from residential to commercial to infrastructure. The two-day event showcases all the latest opportunities in infrastructure and construction across New York, as well as connecting all the key players in the construction industry. AGC Convention Mon, Mar 09, 2020 - Thu, Mar 12, 2020 Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, USA The AGC Annual Convention provides business-critical insights into the issues that commercial contractors are facing and helpful, actionable strategies. The convention provides a showcase into all of the ways that AGC can support your business and expand opportunities in the industry. CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 Tue, Mar 10, 2020 - Sat, Mar 14, 2020 Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas,  NV,  USA CONEXPO-CON/AGG is North America’s largest construction trade show representing asphalt, aggregates, concrete, earthmoving, lifting, mining, utilities and more. Featuring 2,800 exhibitors, 2,500,000 square feet and 150 education sessions. Construction Executive Program Tue, Mar 10, 2020 - Fri, Mar 13, 2020 Denver Airport Marriott at Gateway Park, Denver, USA The Construction Executive Program is designed to develop knowledge using the intense, experience-based Construction Profit Ability TM simulation. Coaching from FMI's industry experts and interactive workshops challenge participants to apply lessons learned in the program straight to their bottom lines. Ohio Construction Conference Wed, Mar 11, 2020 - Wed, Mar 11, 2020 The Ohio Union, Columbus, USA The Ohio Construction Conference provides a forum for the commercial construction industry as the premiere collaborative educational conference in Ohio. The conference brings together national experts to discuss topics that are timely and relevant for industry leaders from the diverse disciplines that make up the commercial construction community. Land and Poverty Conference 2020: Institutions for Equity and Resilience Mon, Mar 16, 2020 - Fri, Mar 20, 2020 1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433 The Land and Poverty conference will present the latest research and practice on the diversity of reforms, interventions, and innovations in the land sector around the world. The conference will cover areas like growth in capacity to automate processes and manage information, consumer feedback, and electronic payments. Experience with managing systematic registration at-scale and fit-for purpose approaches, participatory mapping, and other forms of crowd sourcing are expanding. West Virginia Construction & Design Exposition Wed, Mar 25, 2020 - Thu, Mar 26, 2020 Charleston Civic Center, Charleston,  USA The largest trade show in West Virginia for Construction and Design industries. The WV Construction and Design Expo is all about helping you find better, faster, smarter, cleaner, and more efficient ways to get things done. Get a snapshot of the latest and greatest products and companies in the design and construction industries. American Concrete Institute Convention Sun, Mar 29, 2020 - Thu, Apr 02, 2020 Hyatt Regency O'Hare, Rosemont/Chicago, IL, USA The American Concrete Institute Convention combines the brightest minds in concrete with an unparalleled social environment, bringing a premiere event to concrete professionals to collaborate and advance the industry and their knowledge. It provides the attendees with the opportunity to be a part of the technical sessions/presentations on a wide variety of concrete topics, new research, committee meetings on diverse topics, networking with peers, industry experts, global leaders, and much more. Building Innovation 2020 Conference & Expo Fri, Apr 03, 2020 - Thu, Apr 09, 2020 Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C., Washington, D.C., United States Building Innovation Conference will provide a platform to participate in examining processes, communities, workforces, structures, resources, practices, communications, and collaboration. Science meets design in a compelling program intended to engage the entire team of building professionals in creating innovative solutions for the built environment. International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction & Operations in Challenging Environments Mon, Apr 20, 2020 - Thu, Apr 23, 2020 Renaissance Seattle Hotel, Seattle, USA This event will explore the cutting edge in engineering, science, construction, and operations for extreme environments on earth and in space. Plan to attend and connect with experts and leaders in civil engineering, construction, architecture, aerospace engineering, in-site resource utilization, planetary science, and more. The Annual Conference & Exhibition of Construction Financial Management Association Sat, May 30, 2020 - Wed, Jun 03, 2020 2632-2644 Woodley Rd NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA CFMA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition is an amazing opportunity to discover and implement ideas that deliver results. The conference trains attendees to search for innovative solutions, and provides opportunities to make valuable connections with other construction financial professionals and suppliers. Better Buildings Summit Mon, Jun 08, 2020 - Wed, Jun 10, 2020 Arlington, USA The Better Buildings Summit is for Better Buildings, Better Plants Partners, and other key stakeholders. The summit provides the opportunity for professionals to explore emerging technologies and share innovative strategies in energy and water efficiency. Attendees can expect two days of interactive sessions with industry experts and market leaders, as well as many opportunities to network with peers. International Conference on Concrete Pavements Sun, Aug 30, 2020 - Thu, Sep 03, 2020 Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot, Minneapolis, USA This conference will carry on the tradition of a series of international conferences begun in 1977 by Purdue University—now organized by the International Society for Concrete Pavements. As with the previous international conferences, the focus of the twelfth conference will be to present information on new technologies related to the design, construction, and rehabilitation of various types of concrete pavements.

How Apps Have Improved Five Key Aspects of the Construction Industry

What would the construction industry be without great tools and processes? After all, this is an industry where every inch, day, and dollar counts. The success of contractors and construction companies hinges on efficiency and attention to detail. As a result, technology has already made a huge impact on the field. Recently, drones, robotics, and GIS technology have altered the landscape of construction by optimizing mapping, planning, building, and data management. We can look forward to further advancements with the help of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and much more. But what’s happening right now in the construction industry? Apps, apps, apps! According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans now own smartphones—up from just 35% in 2011. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Our lives are dominated by the small but powerful computers that we keep in our pockets and purses. We can instantly access our money via mobile banking apps, post a selfie or three on Instagram, watch some videos on YouTube, and chat with friends on iMessage. Clearly, smartphones and apps have transformed the way we live but now this technology is changing the way people in the construction industry work, too. General contractors use apps to set estimates and manage bidding. Workers navigate job sites via mobile maps. Construction teams collaborate and scope tasks using digital punch lists. Foremen log and fix safety concerns on smartphones and tablets. This post explores the top five aspects of the construction industry that have been transformed by mobile applications. Whether you work in private, residential, commercial, or industrial construction, you’ll find inspiration on how to digitally transform your workplace. We've also put together a bunch of Excel templates and sample apps so that you can start working digitally today.  1. Project estimates and bidding Before any construction project kicks off, companies and prospects need to get on the same page in terms of the scope and price of the proposal. Historically, construction professionals have resorted to all types of methods and formats for estimate and bidding work—from pen and paper forms to spreadsheet templates, Word or Google docs, and PowerPoint slides. These solutions require a lot of manually entering and distribution of project estimates. Thanks to mobile apps, however, much of this work can now be automated and digitized. How applications help with construction estimates and bidding: Track materials lists. Estimate the cost of permits, administration, legal fees, engineering, etc. Send estimates directly to your clients via standardized email templates or PDFs. Capture signatures using touchscreens. Include photos to clearly communicate concepts, locations, and materials. Download our free construction cost estimation Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet quote and proposal app: 2. Punch lists Punch lists are essential tools for construction companies because success hinges on contract fulfillment and accountability. In order to pass final inspections and receive payment, all contract items on a punch list must be completed. Punch lists include work that’s incomplete or not started, areas of the project that were done incorrectly, or materials and work site features that became damaged during the job. In short, construction projects and inspections rest heavily on the quality and accuracy of punch lists. Originally, workers would literally punch a hole in the margin of a piece of paper next to a completed construction task on the list. Mobile punch list apps have since digitized this process. Now, you can keep and manage punch lists right on your smartphone. How punch list applications help with construction management: Create a single reference point for outstanding tasks that can be referenced by multiple stakeholders including owners, architects, subcontractors, and workers. Track and filter tasks by priority to ensure that all outstanding issues are resolved prior to inspections. Assign and change team or individual ownership of tasks in real time, which reduces errors and eliminates duplicate work. Update the punch list from anywhere at anytime with the most up-to-date information. Download our free construction punch list Excel spreadsheet template. Check back soon for our punch list app! 3. Safety reports and accident near misses The safety of a job site should be the top priority for everyone working in the construction industry. Of course, no one wants accidents on their watch. Unsafe working conditions put people in harm’s way, and also leave construction companies vulnerable to costly litigation. Apps that track construction site accidents and near misses are designed to save lives, time, and money. Near miss and accident reporting apps facilitate clear and timely communication between workers and managers so that incidents don’t fall through the cracks. How mobile apps help manage construction safety reporting: Workers signify the location and circumstances of almost-accidents so that near misses don’t become full-fledged accidents. Workers can document the specific nature of their accident near miss report, including uploading photos of the problem. Managers have all the information they need to make smart process improvements and secure job sites. Managers and foremen prioritize fixes to the safety issues based on urgency. Download our free construction safety report Excel spreadsheet template. Check back soon for our safety report app! 4. Mapping and site inspections Construction professionals thrive on their keen understanding of spaces and places. Blueprints are some of the most basic, yet essential, plans used during any construction project. Contour maps help workers, planners, and stakeholders better understand the job site and project progress. We all use maps on our phones to get around. Mobile map applications are so common that their impact can easily be taken for granted. The technology has so much potential beyond everyday consumer use. Digital maps are now integrated into mobile and desktop construction software to amazing ends. How applications can help with construction mapping and site inspections: Digitally map job sites for greater transparency into project scope, progress, requirements, and budgeting. Gather and track distances and measurements. Report progress on specific geographic areas of job sites. Access maps across multiple platforms (i.e. laptops, smartphones, and tablets) so that you have seamless information no matter if you’re working in the office or in the field. Save map data to work offline. Create maps from images that you upload. This can be used to map floor plans with interactive capabilities such as commenting. Download our free construction site inspection Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet construction floor plan app. 5. Time sheets Construction companies of all sizes require sound HR solutions. Foremen require accurate time sheets, while workers expect timely payroll processes. The smooth management of these vital components of your business fosters trust between management and staff, helps reduce turnover, and creates records for the legal protection of everyone. There are several options when it comes to handling employee time sheets. Word processor templates and paper solutions are unreliable given the sensitivity of the information being collected. Spreadsheets can quickly become unruly if not property maintained. HR software comes with a high price tag and may not be tailored to the construction industry. How time sheet applications help with construction management: Employees can fill out time sheets on their own smartphones, which saves companies the overhead cost of investing in additional hardware. HR, management, and employees receive app interfaces relevant to their roles. This reduces distraction and keeps protected information private. Increase transparency and employee morale through accessible and easy-to-use shift and timekeeping apps. Download our free construction time sheet Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet time sheet app. Build your own construction app suite Mobile apps for the construction industry promise constant, clear communication between workers, foremen, architects, owners, and other stakeholders. These tools have already become essential on job sites and their importance will only grow as our world becomes more connected. There are tons of options for how to fulfill each of these needs through technology—from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom apps. AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, you can create your own unique apps with our platform. If you haven’t already started using mobile application technology on your construction jobs, don’t worry. AppSheet lets you build a whole suite of applications all under one roof.

Digital Transformation Trends in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is no stranger to digital transformation. In the past decade, construction companies have doubled their investments in technology. With so much skin in the game, this should come as no surprise. By 2021, it’s estimated that the global construction market will exceed $24 trillion. While construction companies are in the process of modernizing their operations, they still have a long way to go. Most construction businesses still rely on the same tried-and-true techniques they’ve used for decades—like paper-based project and supply chain management systems. The result, according to McKinsey, is that construction projects are running 20% past deadline and 80% over budget, on average. The benefits of digital transformation are certainly there—ranging from reduced labor costs, increased safety, and shorter project times, to name a few. Add it all up, and it’s critical that the construction industry embraces digital transformation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most impactful digital transformation trends in the construction industry:  Big Data is taking over Construction sites generate a massive amount of data. Companies that can quickly process data and make it actionable are reaping the benefits. For example, JE DUNN is one of the largest construction firms in the U.S. The company recently partnered with Autodesk—a leading maker of 2D and 3D CAD technology—to put their data to work and optimize the design process. When JE DUNN applied its new data modelling system to a $60 million civic center construction project, the company was able to accelerate their timeline by 12 weeks due to less back-and-forth communication during the pre-construction phase. As a result, the company saved $11 million. As this example shows, there’s a difference between stockpiling data and making it work for your organization. It’s not just about having big data—it’s about using it. Wearable devices are optimizing worksites Another way that big data is transforming the construction industry is through the use of wearable devices. As workers move about a construction site, wearable devices enable supervisors to visualize where they spend the most time.  Armed with that information, supervisors can then place tools and materials in more convenient areas, which reduces labor costs by decreasing the amount of wasted time spent hauling materials and gathering tools. Beyond that, wearable devices can also make construction worksites safer.  Robotics and automation are ramping up Construction companies are one of the least automated industries when it comes to robots performing tasks that are otherwise performed by humans. Despite that fact, construction companies are increasingly looking to expand their use of robotics where it makes sense. One study, for example, revealed that spending on construction robots will more than double by 2025.  Kewazo, a Munich-based startup, developed robotic technology that decreases scaffolding construction expenses by 33% while reducing the set up time up by 42%. The company also boasts that their robots reduce the frequency of accidents while sparing construction workers from the strenuous task of lifting heavy scaffolding material during the initial construction phase. Robots are replacing aging construction workers The construction industry is faced with an ever-aging workforce; robots might just come to the rescue. In Japan, over one-third of construction workers are at least 54-years-old. By 2025, it’s estimated that the Japanese construction industry will face a shortage of over 1.2 million workers due to its aging workforce and the fact that there aren’t any younger workers ready to replace them.  The U.S. isn’t too far behind; the average construction worker is 43-years-old. To bridge these labor gaps, more and more construction businesses are turning to robots. We anticipate this trend will grow into the future along with advancements in robotic technology and 5G wireless infrastructure. Mobile apps are fostering digital collaboration and transparency Mobile apps are perhaps the most exciting digital transformation trend in the construction industry. Thanks to no-code app development platforms, construction companies are able to quickly build custom apps that manage data capture, run field reports and safety inspections, track construction projects, and much more. Additionally, no-code platforms enable everyday construction employees (i.e., citizen developers) to build apps for their businesses, which saves companies from having to absorb massive development costs. Construction companies of all types are using no-code apps to increase their efficiency. For example, KLB Construction, a Seattle-based civil construction company, reduced mountains of paperwork using no-code apps. And over in Colorado, Front Range Excavating developed a series of apps using AppSheet’s no-code platform. Within a single month, the company’s custom apps were able to facilitate every single process within the company—without hiring a single developer. They even built an app that reduced payroll processing from one day to 30 minutes! Talk about efficiency. Choosing the best digital tools for your construction business The first step toward digital transformation is the most important one. Once you begin your journey, you’ll never look back. Whether your main priority is improving safety, reducing labor costs, or increasing worksite efficiency—or all of the above—there’s sure to be a digital solution to help your construction business get more done more in less time. To learn more about how AppSheet improves worksite safety, click here. To learn about how to enable digital transformation with custom apps, download the ebook below.

Leading construction contractor chooses to build a no-code solution over buying Procore software

Front Range Excavating streamlined management and saved thousands of dollars using AppSheet’s cutting-edge no-code app development platform. For more than 30 years, Front Range Excavating has provided construction, excavation, and environmental services to commercial property owners in Colorado’s Front Range region.   Together, the company’s 35 managers, field employees, drivers, and mechanics complete around 25 major projects every year. There is little room for error in this type of environment. Even the smallest oversight can lead to injuries, project delays, and other negative consequences. Succeeding in this space starts with having a reliable internal management system that makes it easy to store data, share notes, and update team members on new development. To keep everyone aligned, real-time communication is critical. Scott Nance, vice president of Front Range, has used several construction management platforms over the last several years. But he was disappointed with each one he tried. Platforms like Procore cost thousands of dollars per year but don’t guarantee a positive user experience. According to Nance, the team was frustrated with the lack of customization and flexibility each platform offered. Front Range required a solution that could meet their exact needs.   “Most platforms are meant for general contractors or larger operations,” Nance explains. “They offer a lot of features. But most of them don’t apply to what we do as a specialized subcontractor. We wanted something that could go deeper. ” Nance’s team needs to track things like labor and equipment, trucking, materials, and subcontractors on a regular basis. “There are certain details within those groups that aren’t easily captured with standard apps—like tonnage or yardage when a truck is hauling items and load counts,” Nance continues. “Those details can be very tricky to record with generic software. The services we tried all required workarounds and none of them were very beneficial. They were also expensive.” Since none of the existing solutions on the market met his needs, Nance decided to build an app himself. Front Range discovers AppSheet Nance stumbled across AppSheet’s no-code platform two years ago when he was building a form in Google. He was blown away at what he could create on his own with just a working knowledge of spreadsheets. Nance, after all, does not come from a technical background. His experience is in construction. Leveraging AppSheet’s renowned online community—and his wits—Nance was able to create a robust app that automates a variety of tasks like reporting, payroll, maintenance, and repairs. The app also provides email and text notifications, making it easy for team members to see important messages throughout the day. “I started building some basic forms, then let my imagination run,” Nance explains. “At first, we started using AppSheet to quickly capture data from the field. But the more we experimented with the platform, the more features we were able to discover and leverage.” Creating custom apps quickly On average, it takes at least six months to build an enterprise app. Thanks to AppSheet, it took Nance only one month to create a fully operational app that seamlessly captured every process in his company. The app can handle very large sets of data, which the company stores in a single Google file that has 30 different sheets. Each sheet has about 20 columns. Altogether, there are thousands of rows full of information.    Nance is still tinkering with the app today. In fact, he’s getting ready to release a major update. Right now, there are about 10 employees using the app for backend management and equipment maintenance. For example, the company’s shopkeepers, mechanics, technicians, and general superintendent all use the app to schedule and track repairs. Each machine can be entered and tracked for needing repairs—like low fluid levels and inadequate tire pressure. Front Range is in the process of scaling their app, though, and will soon roll the solution out to every employee in the company. For example, the company plans to release a field app for employees in non-managerial positions. This app will provide access to daily schedules, contact information, time cards, vacation and reimbursement requests, and more—basically anything that relates to an employee on a personal level. This will be a smaller version of the company’s management app, which offers the same features along with advanced reporting and governance tools. According to Nance, each department will have its own version of the app, tailored to their exact needs. “The newest rendition will save us at least two days’ worth of administrative work in the office,” Nance said. “Our payroll alone will be cut from a full-day’s worth of work down to maybe 30 minutes. We also plan to streamline many other processes—like writing hourly tickets, managing personnel, calculating load counts, and more.” The app also helps Front Range keep up with maintenance, repairs and numerous safety requirements mandated by the state and federal government. “We have safety meetings that we have to hold periodically,” Nance explained. “With AppSheet, we’re able to record those and email those to superintendents the minute they happen.” Front Range’s custom app also enables them track repairs in real time, which helps them see exactly which machines are getting serviced and what appointments are coming up. “We’re now able to do all of those tasks on a phone instead of having to do them on a computer,” Nance said. “This means no more clunky equipment laying around the shop.” What can you build with AppSheet? We asked Nance for some advice to share with other AppSheet users who are just starting out. Nance pointed back to AppSheet’s online community, which continues to inspire him. “There are people posting some absolutely amazing solutions to various problems,” Nance concluded. “Search through there and start thinking of the different things you want to include—whether that’s advanced reporting, email notification, charts or graphs. Use your imagination. If you can think of it, AppSheet can probably do it. You just have to figure out what it looks like and how to go about it.” Curious about what you can build with AppSheet? The short answer: whatever your business needs.  Take a look at these sample apps to get an idea. Interested in exploring how AppSheet supports larger enterprises? Check out KLB Construction's in-depth case study to learn how a Seattle-based company transformed their inspections, operations, and reporting systems for hundreds of employees and contractors. Or, get in touch with your specific needs.

Construction Company Spreads the Wealth with Mobile Apps

Brodsky Construction is a Canadian earth-moving construction business out of Saskatoon, a city located in Saskatchewan, Canada. It constructs dams, lagoons, and roads. It grades and excavates. It does work related to drainage works, geotextile and geosynthetic applications, and granular material placement. (And soon it may have an app creation business as well!) The company caters to cities, rural municipalities, and other government entities, developers, and landfill owners. It brings in about $3 million in annual revenue. And it has 20 employees during peak season. While Brodsky Construction has a small office, most of its operations take place out in the field. Until recently, field staff used paper for recording and reference purposes. But using paper for performance reporting, safety documentation, and other field efforts was problematic. “It was just a nightmare to keep track of all the paper for everything,” says John Brodsky, the company’s business manager. “I was chasing paper all around the countryside.” So John began searching for a better solution. At first he thought buying pre-built apps was the way to go. John explored several pre-made options for the construction industry, however, none of them provided all of the functionality he was looking for. These apps allowed the company to go paperless, but did not support the level of customization they were looking for. “They just didn’t do what we needed them to do,” John says. “So I was exploring all over the place, and I finally came across AppSheet and realized I could probably figure out how to do exactly what I wanted to do with it…. And turns out I could build us an app that did everything we needed to.” John isn’t a programmer, but he is good with spreadsheets. That experience gave him an edge in using the AppSheet platform, which supports Google Sheets. And because Brodsky Construction has a seasonal business, John had time during the winter of 2016 to experiment with the AppSheet platform. “The most important part for me was that AppSheet supports Google Sheets as a data source,” says John. “The fact that all the information was fed directly into a spreadsheet meant I could build all the reports that I wanted on the back end on my Google Sheets based on what was submitted in the app.” Today Brodsky Construction has one AppSheet-powered app. All of Brodsky Construction’s employees and supervisors use it. The app houses all the documentation workers need when they’re in the field. Workers also use the app to submit documentation. The AppSheet app also simplifies time cards and payroll efforts, helps supervisors with daily reports, and makes it easy for everybody to access safety-related materials. That has enabled Brodsky Construction to contain its administration costs. “The app has allowed us to keep equipment usage and fuel tracking up to date in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise,” said John. Brodsky Construction even sees AppSheet as a potential new revenue source. John said if he didn’t have the AppSheet app, he’d need administrative help. “Right now I’m the only full-time office member,” he says. “I’d probably have to hire at least one more person to manage the administrative stuff right now. But AppSheet has allowed me to keep a handle on all the administrative stuff in the office by myself.” For example, AppSheet helps John manage payroll—automatically updating Google Sheets payroll spreadsheets. “It used to take me a full day to do all the manual data entry with paper time cards and send it off to our accountants to remit payroll,” he explains. “Now I just have to click three drop-down menus on a spreadsheet and hit print, and I’ve got my payroll report. So that’s been a huge savings.” Here is how it works: Users submit their time card information in the app. The app feeds data into the payroll Google Sheet. From there, John generates payroll reports. He adds that AppSheet has released a lot of helpful new features since he began using the platform two years ago. So John has released major updates of Brodsky Construction’s app every season since its launch. The app has been such a success that Brodsky Construction workers have shared their experiences with some of the company’s contractors. And several of those contractors have expressed an interest in having AppSheet apps of their own. Brodsky Construction has launched app pilot projects with two of those contractors. And it’s pitching mobile apps to others in its industry. Meanwhile, John is considering building more apps for his company’s own use. He’s looking at one to address equipment maintenance and repair documentation. Another would help company accountants manage their paperless filing system. Editor's notes: Below are two sample apps you will find useful. Look Under The Hood takes you to the App Editor, where you can see how the app was built. Copy and Customize allows you to copy the app, replace or edit the data, and customize the app. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and we will respond ASAP.  

Landscaping: Gelderman Digitizes Operations with 15 Mobile Apps to Provide Better Services to Customers

Making a beautiful outdoor area is their business, and business has never been better for Gelderman Landscape Services since they started using AppSheet! Gelderman provides commercial and residential landscape maintenance, landscape design, construction and snow removal services in Southern Ontario. Their customers and work crews are often spread across a number of different locations, and it can be hard to keep track of with old-fashioned spreadsheets. The company’s Business Process Administrator, Breanne Hulst came across AppSheet while working on a Google form. At the time, the company was sorting through mountains of paper every day to track nearly 150 employees across four different branches. The employees would log things like inspection reports, on-the-job-accidents and hazards, and then send all that information back to a central processing center. “There was just too much paper, which is really hard to manage when you have it coming from different locations,” Breanne says. That’s where AppSheet came in. Breanne has some experience with Excel but no programming background. With AppSheet’s no-code platform, Breanne was able to input her spreadsheet data and create an app that allowed crews to fill out a report detailing what work had been completed on a site that was then sent to the client. Communication is a priority, and these reports have helped bridge the gap and create better relations between Gelderman Landscape Services and its clients. In two years, Breanne has created 15 apps that help run different parts of the business, so Gelderman can focus on what it does best: performing top-quality property maintenance and construction services. Fifteen apps may seem like a lot, but Breanne says each one has an important job. Five of the apps deal with employee health and safety, and cover accidents, illnesses and on-the-job hazards. Employees who were involved in or witnessed any incidents can now immediately submit a report. Another app handles job site inspections, to make sure crews are keeping the work area safe and that they have all the tools they need to complete the job. There’s an app to organize invoices coming in from teams in the field, and one that handles vehicle and equipment inspections. One of the biggest apps has to do with customer relations. When crews are on the job, they use the app to send progress reports to the owner of the building so everyone stays on the same page. Breanne says that’s made a big difference. “We deal with property managers, and there can be one that has a few different condos they operate with. They want that communication, and I think a lot of companies promise that they’re going to tell customers what they’re doing but there’s nothing back it up.” While Breanne says the shift away from paper can be a tough one in the landscaping industry, it has some major benefits. Instead of just filing a report away never to be seen again, “We can analyze reports that have come in and actually do something with the information we’re getting.” And keeping the information all in one place helps the company track any issues and solve them quickly. “We’ve been able to analyze our health and safety reporting and say ‘if this is something we’re always seeing, we can work on that.’” Breanne’s favorite feature? How easy the app makes it to send out information quickly to the people that need it. “We’re able to play with the app so we can send out the right information, but not all the information. It really helps with our workflow.” Gelderman rolled out their newest app in August, and there are already plans for more, including one for a monthly workplace inspection and one for equipment repair. Her advice for anyone looking to make their own? Head to AppSheet’s YouTube page. “Watch the videos, they’re really helpful,” she says. “And then on AppSheet’s website there are a lot of sample apps that you can copy to get started.” Whether it’s an app to track package deliveries, keep track of inventory, or send notifications to employees, AppSheet can help you do all that and more. If you find yourself sifting through stacks of paper or scrolling lines of spreadsheets you may find, as Breanne did, that AppSheet can simplify the workday and help both large and small businesses run as smoothly as possible.  

Construction Apps: Space Solution Firm Hits Pay DIRTT with AppSheet

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Change. Ease of use. Flexibility. All of the above are important trends and requirements in business today. And they’re all central to how DIRTT operates, the solutions it delivers, and why the company selected AppSheet to power its business applications.  DIRTT is in the interior construction business. But it’s not the kind of construction entity the Calgary-based company’s name implies. This company is not about pouring foundations, laying bricks, and installing drywall. In fact, DIRTT’s Leigh Cooper says drywall is the enemy. “We don’t build walls,” explains Cooper. “We liberate the space between them.” And it does that in record time, with reconfigurable and eco-friendly solutions. DIRTT wanted a similarly efficient way to create business apps and improve internal operations, so it adopted the AppSheet platform to do that. Cooper found and began using AppSheet a few years ago after running into a dispatch delivery challenge at DIRTT headquarters. DIRTT has three buildings at its home base in Calgary, and trucks carry project materials among these various facilities. Initially, a DIRTT employee used email to coordinate dispatch. But one day Cooper wanted to send something to another building, and his request wasn’t carried out. Someone either didn’t receive the email, or they read it but then forgot to act on it. “It was one of those moments: ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this!’” says Cooper. He found it with Google Apps and the AppSheet add-on. “It was exactly what I was looking for,” Cooper says. He liked AppSheet’s mobile interface and the fact that Google Sheets data is always current. Plus, AppSheet and Google Sheets allow multiple people to use an app at the same time. The dispatch app (see below) provides DIRTT with a variety of benefits, including ease of use and helpful metrics. The initial email process for dispatch requests didn’t have metrics. But the app has complete metrics including busiest day of the week, how many deliveries are made, how big those deliveries are, which size of deliveries are most common, and whether additional trucks are required. Such metrics enable DIRTT to align its resources with its requirements. DIRTT’s five distribution center drivers use this application. And numerous other employees use a related app to submit requests for truck deliveries. The AppSheet-powered dispatch app has supported 20,000 deliveries since it was introduced in 2016. To learn more about DIRTT's journey and other apps DIRTT created, download the case study. In it, you’ll discover how DIRTT: Built its delivery management app, what it tracks, and how it's used. Enabled better material tracking by creating a second app to track all customer-owned material. Encouraged engagement and reuse by creating a type of Craig's list app for internal employees.